Online Certifications: Are They Worth It?

Many online certifications for bootcamps, MOOCs (massive online open courses), and degree-specific programs are offered by many online institutions, but are they worth it? Platforms like Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy offer these certificates to students after they complete an online course.

Certification courses are widely available to anyone with access to the internet and often come at a lower cost for students as compared to traditional brick-and-mortar educations. These two features are revolutionizing the way higher education works and provide the opportunity to boost a resume for better job placement.

Consider a hypothetical student who takes software programming courses online and gains a coding certification. She boosts her resume, increasing the chance that an employer will hire her. But does this guarantee job placement?

Are online certifications worth it?

First, let’s go over some positives for online certifications. Online learning is a great choice for those who may not be able to take a course at a physical location or at a set time. These specializations often cost much less than a college program as well. Online certifications can improve your resume and prove your knowledge in that subject area to employers. In this way, they can be very helpful when looking for job placements.

But, however helpful online certifications may be, they alone cannot guarantee job placements. Consider the following essential proficiencies that online certifications do not necessarily cover.

Online Certifications can Improve Communication Skills


Communication skills are vital if you want to get a job. Being able to communicate effectively with managers, colleagues, and clients by listening carefully, speaking clearly and putting others at ease is one of the most important skills in the workplace, no matter which sector you work in. This communication can happen in person, over the phone, by email or any messaging service. Communication is especially important for team projects and distance work.

If you think that coders only need to be able to communicate with the computer, think again. Communication skills are extremely important in meeting with your team, in ad hoc meetings, with business users, clients, and other teams, etc. Good programmers are good at communicating with the computer, but great programmers are good at communicating with people too.

Since an online coding certification alone can’t affirm your communication skills, find other ways to develop and master this essential skill to prospective employers.

Online Certifications can teach you how to work independently

Ability to Work

You want your employers to know that you have the ability to work independently, that you’re a motivated self-starter who takes initiative and is successful with minimal supervision. This includes:

  • Knowing what you need to do
  • Taking initiative instead of waiting to be told what to do
  • Learning to work at a pace you can sustain
  • Taking ownership of your mistakes without excuses
  • Doing your job to the best of your ability without need for external prodding
  • Working until the job is completed

An ability to work independently is a necessary skill and fosters a mindset that will ensure you make the best case for landing the job you want. Find ways to learn and practice this skill and stand apart from the crowd by showing employers that you excel on your own.

Online Certifications teach you problem solving skills

Problem Solving

Being a creative thinker means that you come up with ideas that are unique and “out of the box.” This isn’t something that’s always taught in online courses. Being certified in coding or any other skill doesn’t imply you can creatively solve problems. Find other ways to show employers you have this skill.

Creative thinkers find different solutions to problems when the ‘normal’ solutions aren’t working. It can be a little daring and you may fail, but a good creative problem solver will learn from these failures and keep trying.

Obtain relevant work experience while obtaining online certifications.

Work Experience

In the eyes of employers, getting an online certification does not constitute as work experience, and rightly so. There is a big difference between learning and practicing what you are taught and applying that knowledge in a real world situation – with real world consequences. This is why employers desire that anybody they hire has as much relevant work experience applicable to the position they are hiring to fill. It minimizes their risk and prequalifies you for the job, as you have already shown you can do the work successfully.

So be mindful of the fact that taking all necessary courses and receiving the necessary certifications does not replace the value that relevant work experience has when trying to secure a good job.

Online certifications seem to be getting more and more popular amongst the software programming community. They offer a good chance to learn and practice the art of coding as well as show future employers that you have the knowledge to do the job. But, however helpful they may be, they alone are not worth the time and money if you do not combine it with the other equally important proficiencies that companies look for when making hiring decisions. With great communication skills, creative problem solving, relevant work experience and your online certifications, you will be the most qualified and desirable candidate for any job.

Further Reading:

Are Free Online Courses Worth the Time and Effort?
15 free online courses that are actually worth your time
5 Reasons to Consider Paying for a MOOC Verified Certificate

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